By Shamshad Ali
New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) Zaira Wasim, who was unknown a few months ago, has now become a household name in her native Kashmir after landing a role in superstar Aamir Khan’s upcoming movie “Dangal”.
Competing with a thousand girls, Zaira never thought she would ever get a chance to land a role in the film. But luck was on her side, as she bagged the role of wrestler Geeta Phogat and got the chance to share screen space with Aamir. After completing shooting for six months in Mumbai, Zaira is now back in Srinagar.
“I was like new to the (showbiz) world and felt nervous when I was working with my co-actors on the sets”, Zaira told IANS on the phone.
“The experience has been so strong to change my life. Playing Geeta Phogat, the role demanded wrestling skills on my part. I had to go through rigorous physical and mental training,” added the 15-year-old Zaira, who is currently in Class 10.
Phogat is the first woman wrestler from India to have won the gold in the 55 kg freestyle category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In “Dangal”, Aamir plays wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, who trained his two daughters in the sport.
Zaira’s training included exhaustive morning sessions of running, swimming and wrestling. The training made her learn to overcome anxieties.
“Before ‘Dangal’, I had done two ads. I got a call from Mukesh Chabra (the film’s casting director) to attend an important workshop for a week. I went to Mumbai to attend the workshop. There were a lot of girls who had already done one or more ads or serials and I had to do some scenes in front of them; so, I was like ‘there is no space for me’,” she said.
Like other parents, Zaira too had to convince her parents to support her decision to act in the film, more so being from Kashmir.
“It was my school principal and my aunt who supported my decision. They both convinced my parents and handled the situation very well,” Zaira said.
As the word of her shooting for the film spread, some netizens began trolling and bullying her and also issued self-styled life threats.
“Some nasty comments about me were posted on social media. But Aamir Khan and the rest of the crew helped me. I am still getting comments from unknown persons, but I believe in positivity and have learned how to deal with such comments,” she said.
“To be honest, after getting back to Kashmir and being a girl, it haunts me how people would feel about me now. But I saw appreciation and support from my friends, family and other neighbours and I am really honoured that people are telling me I am representing Kashmir,” she added.
Zaira said that the people in Kashmir should “realise their talent” as they have a “lot of potential and ability”.
Does she have any plans for future in Bollywood?
“I don’t have any goal or any aim which I have to follow; I am going with the flow that life shows me… I want to study, but if another film offer comes my way in future and doesn’t affect my studies I will take it,” Zaira concluded.
(Shamshad Ali can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)